Kentucky vs. UConn 2014: Odds Advice and Key Player Predictions for Championship

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2014

Kentucky head coach John Calipari cheers on players including forward Julius Randle (30) during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game against Wisconsin Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay

With claims of parity and Cinderellas in tow, the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats will meet the No. 7 UConn Huskies in the 2014 NCAA championship game—go figure.

Cinderella, no. All the superb matchup proves is that seeds mean little and parity is rampant. Those factors would explain why the biggest heavyweight bout of the month (sorry, Pacquiao-Bradley) between the two programs is of the historic variety, as ESPN Stats & Info explains:

Unlike the rest of the tournament, now is a good time for bettors to make some coin. Here's a look at the updated odds and predictions for the most important player from each side.


When: Monday, April 7, at 9:10 p.m. ET

Where: AT&T Stadium, Dallas

Watch: CBS

Live Stream: March Madness Live

Odds: Kentucky (-2.5), courtesy of Vegas Insider


Key Player Predictions

Julius Randle, Kentucky

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 30:  Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 75 to 72 in the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2014 in India
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

A bit lost in the shuffle behind three game-winning shots from Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle continues to be a terror under the rim who has a lengthy pro career in front of him.

He certainly has the attention of NBA minds around the globe, including Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy:

Count CBS Sports' Matt Norlander in, too:

Randle has a very tough task ahead against the Huskies, a team that suddenly morphed into a dominant squad in the paint against the No. 1 Florida Gators. Patric Young and Co. were mostly held in check and the Huskies won the battle on the glass.

To that end, the Wildcats are going to need every bit—maybe more—of Randle's averages of 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He'll likely surpass those marks as the best performer on the floor for Kentucky.

Whether or not it will be enough is a different story.

Prediction: 19 points, 14 rebounds


Shabazz Napier, UConn

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 05: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal against the Florida Gators at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. The Connecticut Huskies defeated the Florida Gators
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Harrison is getting all of the attention at the moment in terms of biggest name entering the title game, but Shabazz Napier remains the best overall player—and has been since the onset of the Madness.

But credit to Napier for understanding just how dangerous his Wildcats counterpart is, as captured by's Adam Zagoria: 

For much of the reason, Napier has wavered a bit in the hype department before the game is because he posted just 12 points against the Gators.

More importantly, he forced SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin to turn the ball over on three of four plays (via ESPN). This defensive prowess and high-volume scoring ability (he's scored a minimum of 19 points in the other tournament games) makes him the best player on the court and the most important to watch on Monday. 

Prediction: 26 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals


Odds Advice

As Vegas notes, this matchup is a proper way to end the Madness between two rather evenly matched teams.

It's easy to jump on the Kentucky bandwagon. John Calipari hit another recruiting class out of the park, the Wildcats were the preseason No. 1 and are finally living up to that billing.

One problem—the Wildcats barely squeaked past Michigan and Wisconsin, two teams with iffy perimeter defenses that allowed Kentucky's guards to run wild.

If the game is close, then it makes sense to roll with Kentucky. But the Wildcats have to keep it close, and recent stellar defensive performances from the Huskies both in the paint and on the perimeter—paired with big performances from the likes of DeAndre Daniels—suggest UConn is the complete package.

Roll with the more experienced, and seemingly complete team on Monday night.


Follow Chris_Roling on Twitter